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Our Latin American Hairshirt

- Abstract

FOR A PEOPLE whose greatest need is to be loved, a British journalist once observed, of all the places on earth, Americans must be unhappiest in Latin America. At the time the comment seemed both witty and apposite; today one wonders whether the same author might not console us with the thought that if Latin Americans do not love us, at any rate, they cannot dislike us any more than we already dislike ourselves. In some ways there is nothing new about this state of affairs. Self-doubt is not precisely a virgin sentiment in this country, and Latin hostility to the United States, as everyone knows, boasts an extremely venerable pedigree. What is new, however, is the peculiar fusion of these attitudes into one forming a baroque guilt syndrome, in which this country stands condemned not only for its own shortcomings but also for virtually all of the failures of its southern neighbors. Where once Americans were content to dismiss Latin America’s sufferings as the just price to be paid for Roman Catholicism, Spanish colonization, chili peppers, Montezuma’s revenge, and machismo, today they seem perilously close to accepting responsibility for the Latin American share in Original Sin. In fact, things have come to such a pass that an extraordinary number of otherwise intelligent people now believe that events in Latin America are determined in the United States to such a point that they can be understood only in terms of decisions made in Washington, New York, and the Pentagon.

About the Author

Mark Falcoff is resident scholar emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.